Microsoft: SolarWinds hackers didn't access customer data

Microsoft, like many other companies, was recently hit with an unprecedented cyber-attack.

Recently, Microsoft was hit along with various other major companies in an unprecedented cyberattack, most likely perpetrated by a hostile state actor. The attackers exploited vulnerabilities in SolarWinds software, which resulted in targets, primarily in the United States, having data compromised.

In a blog post on Microsoft’s website, the company elaborated on its findings, noting that customer data was not compromised in the attack, and that access to Microsoft’s systems were not used to further other attacks to secondary targets.

Our investigation into our own environment has found no evidence of access to production services or customer data. The investigation, which is ongoing, has also found no indications that our systems were used to attack others.

Microsoft also elaborated that unspecified source code repositories may have been viewed as a result of the attack. Microsoft also claims that its security model reduces the risk of vulnerabilities, noting that merely from viewing source code does not create “elevated risk,” as the company operates internally using an “open source-like culture.”

We detected unusual activity with a small number of internal accounts and upon review, we discovered one account had been used to view source code in a number of source code repositories. The account did not have permissions to modify any code or engineering systems and our investigation further confirmed no changes were made. These accounts were investigated and remediated.

At Microsoft, we have an inner source approach – the use of open source software development best practices and an open source-like culture – to making source code viewable within Microsoft. This means we do not rely on the secrecy of source code for the security of products, and our threat models assume that attackers have knowledge of source code. So viewing source code isn’t tied to elevation of risk.

Whether the SolarWinds hack will be used to attack Microsoft’s customers across Windows, Microsoft 365, or Azure remains to be seen. Despite Microsoft’s claims, exposing any particular source code to a hostile agent may contribute to future exploits, particularly if the attacks are indeed emerging from a state-funded source.

Microsoft: SolarWinds hackers didn't access customer data

Become a financial expert at the cards table with The Money Deck, now 15% off

Source: StackCommerce
Most novelty playing cards are just for fun. But with The Money Deck, you get educated in the world of personal finance as you play. Right now, the casino-quality deck is 15% off at just $16.99.
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To bring these concepts to life, the cards bear illustrations from an artist who regularly contributes to the Harvard Business Review and WIRED magazine. Below the picture, there is a simple, light-hearted explanation.
Topics covered include saving and retirement, investment strategies, credit and borrowing, common money mistakes, the economy, fun facts, and more.
The Money Deck usually sells for $20, but you can get it now for $16.99.

 

The Money Deck – $16.99See Deal

 
Prices subject to change 

Become a financial expert at the cards table with The Money Deck, now 15% off

These are the 5 biggest news stories of 2020 in Microsoft, PCs, and Windows

These five stories were our biggest headlines of 2020.

2020 was a massive year for Microsoft-related news. Two major consoles launched, Microsoft announced several new Surface devices, and PC parts took a major leap forward. We published thousands of news stories this year, but five topics stood out above the rest as the biggest news stories of 2020 in Microsoft, PCs, and Windows.

Microsoft Teams

In a year when more people worked and studied from home than ever, Microsoft Teams usage skyrocketed. The communication platform’s daily active user count was at 20 million people in November 2019. By March that figure was up to 44 million, then it reached 75 million in April. The last time Microsoft shared figures was in October when Teams hit 115 million daily active users.

Microsoft Teams’ growth wasn’t just about more people jumping onto the platform. Grid views grew from four people to nine people to 49 people in 2020. Teams upped the maximum participant count for meetings up to 300, and new features like Together Mode and Gallery view make it easy to see everyone in meetings at once. Microsoft even rolled out a personal version of Teams aimed at keeping friends and family in touch.

At times in 2020, Teams was behind other surging services, such as Zoom — there weren’t Teams custom backgrounds until June — but Microsoft invested heavily into the platform. Teams is now available on PCs, Macs, iPads, iPhone, and Android devices. Microsoft even rolled out a version for Linux and optimized one for Windows 10 on ARM.

Microsoft also pushed to get Teams into the eyes of the public. The company rolled out ad campaigns for the platform and worked with the NBA to bring fans courtside during the playoff bubble. It’s clear that Teams is here to stay and that Microsoft is investing time, effort, and resources into making it compete with other top communication apps.

Microsoft Teams

See at Microsoft

Microsoft Teams allows you to collaborate with colleagues, upload files, send messages, and chat through video. It integrates with Office 365 and several other cloud services.

Xbox Series X and Series S

The Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S usher in the next generation of console gaming. They feature fast SSDs that bring insane loading times, have excellent new features like Quick Resume, and make old Xbox games look even better.

The Xbox Series X has a design heavily inspired by gaming PCs. It emphasizes airflow and helps the console power through games without getting hot. The Xbox Series X can handle 4K gaming and 120FPS, which was unheard of in consoles until recently. The Xbox Series S might not power 4K gaming like its big sibling, but it has many of the same next-gen improvements.

While the hardware of both consoles is impressive, the launch lineup for them is disappointing. With Halo Infinite getting bumped to next year and a lack of blockbuster titles, many felt that they could wait to upgrade to the next-gen, which might be just as well since it can be hard to find a console in stock these days.

While there isn’t a long list of launch titles, both the Xbox Series X and Series S benefit greatly from Xbox Game Pass, Microsoft’s Netflix-style subscription that gets you access to hundreds of games for a flat monthly rate. Xbox Game Pass is the best value in gaming, and many of the games on it look better than ever on next-generation hardware.

Best of the best

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold in one

Xbox Game Pass gives you access to over a hundred games for one monthly fee. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate also adds Xbox Live Gold and Game Pass for PC to the package so you can play online with your friends.

From $1 at Microsoft Store

Surface Duo

2020 was the year of the folding device. Samsung released the Galaxy Fold 2, Motorola released the RAZR 2, at least of the smartphone variety, and Lenovo even released a folding computer, the ThinkPad X1 Fold. But when it comes to folding tech, Microsoft took a different approach. Instead of releasing a device with a single screen that folds, the company launched the Surface Duo, a folding phone centered around multitasking.

The Surface Duo has two separate displays attached by a 360-degree hinge. You can drag content between its displays or span websites and apps across both screens at once. It’s a unique approach, and the device has been met with mixed reviews. Most reviews, including our own Surface Duo review, came away impressed by the hardware but disappointed by the overall device experience.

Our executive editor sums up the Surface Duo best by saying:

Microsoft gets points for a radically new mobile idea that has genuine merit. Microsoft loses points simply because the software is halfbaked, and it needs more dual-screen apps; but nothing is fundamentally wrong with the underlying concept. With a few updates, Surface Duo could absolutely be life-changing, opening new doors for working on the go or the couch. But if you’re going to buy Surface Duo, but it for what it is, not what it may be.

Order now

Microsoft Surface Duo

From $1,200 at Microsoft
From $1,200 at Best Buy
From $47/mo at AT&T

Two screens are better than one.

Microsoft delves into the future of foldables with an ambitious dual-screen device, featuring two ultra-thin 5.6-inch AMOLED displays bound by a 360-degree hinge. This pocketable inking-enabled Android smartphone marks the latest in the Surface lineup, geared for mobile productivity.

Panos Panay heading up Windows and hardware

Windows 10 has been out for years, but it still doesn’t have a unified look and feel. It still has clunky menus from previous versions of Windows and is far less refined than other operating systems like macOS. Inconsistency and lack of attention to detail are some of the many things that will be tackled by Panos Panay.

Panay, who is best recognized for his work on Microsoft’s Surface lineup, became the leader of Microsoft’s Devices and Windows Experiences team, which is made up of a combination of what was once the Windows Experience (client) and Microsoft hardware teams.

Panay has a passion and drive that should invigorate Windows 10 and help it meet the high standards set by Panay himself. Panay has shown incredible attention to detail when it comes to Surface hardware, and that detail-oriented drive could be just what Windows 10 needs.

We’ll see the first major fruits of this change in an upcoming Windows 10 UI overhaul codenamed Project Sun Valley. Our senior editor, Zac Bowden, reports that “Microsoft is planning to update many top-level user interfaces such as the Start menu, Action Center, and even File Explorer, with consistent modern designs, better animations, and new features.” The UI overhaul should roll out before the end of 2021, though plans are always subject to change.

NVIDIA and AMD GPUs

2020 wasn’t just a great year for console gaming; AMD and NVIDIA rolled out some incredible GPUs this year. The new GPUs bring more power, powerful ray tracing, and put their predecessors to shame in terms of value for money.

Team green launched the RTX 30 series of graphics cards, including the RTX 3070, 3080, and the monstrous RTX 3090. The RTX 3090 paves the way for 8K gaming at 60FPS, which almost feels unreal to write.

AMD’s RX 6000 family of GPUs is equally impressive. The RX 6900 XT goes toe-to-toe with the RTX 3090, even beating it out in frame rates on some games at 4K. AMD pushes the graphics card competition forward as well by offering incredible value for a cost that’s making many gamers consider a swap to team red.

The downside to all these great graphics cards is that you can’t purchase them anywhere. On launch day after launch day, the in-demand graphics cards sold out almost instantly. In many cases, people saw a “Sold Out” badge on a listing before ever having a chance to buy a card. Here’s hoping that in 2020 we’ll be able to get our hands on these cards to power the latest PC games like Cyberpunk 2077.

More to come

While Microsoft and Windows had a big year in 2020, 2021 is set up to be even bigger. With an overhaul to Windows 10, Windows 10X, and Windows 10 ‘Cloud PC’ on the way, 2021 could be the biggest year for the operating systems we’ve seen in a while. We also expect to see several impressive pieces of hardware.

What did you think the biggest story was in 2020? What are you looking forward to in 2021? Let us know in the comments below.

These are the 5 biggest news stories of 2020 in Microsoft, PCs, and Windows

This end of year deal on Amazon Kids+ can keep your children busy in 2021

How often do you find a service that can truly keep your children entertained for hours, days, weeks… even months on end?! Sure, YouTube is free but it’s not necessarily safe or always appropriate. Amazon Kids+ can truly be a lifesaver.

This subscription service is dedicated to providing your kids with age-appropriate material, from shows and movies to educational games, eBooks, and more, all for a low monthly price starting at just $2.99 for one child. Though it’s inexpensive even at full price, there’s an even better deal to consider that could score your whole family an entire year of Kids+ for just $19.99, down from $99.

There are also “best-in-class” parental controls that can let you restrict what your child will see and set usage time limits. One great feature is that Amazon Kids+ works as a launcher for the device it’s on, and you can’t leave the app until a parent enters their password to allow the rest of the device to be accessed.

This is one of the most affordable services too with this deal dropping the monthly cost as low as $1.67 for up to four children. Amazon Kids+ is available as an app on various devices, including Amazon Fire tablets and Kids Edition tablets, iOS and Android devices, and Kindle e-Readers.

There is another way to score Amazon Kids+ completely free. You’ve probably heard about Amazon’s Kids Edition devices, like the Kids Edition Echo Dot or a Kids Edition Fire Tablet. These devices have strict parental controls and don’t allow Alexa to divulge any information that might be harmful to little ears, but best of all, they each include a full year of Kids+ for free with the purchase.

This end of year deal on Amazon Kids+ can keep your children busy in 2021

An ode to Adobe Flash, and how it saved my future

A tribute to Flash.

Tomorrow’s World was is a classic BBC documentary series, which originally started all the way back in the 1960s. The show focused on futurism, looking at near-future tech innovations and potential emerging markets as a result. Bathed in the radiating hum of a cathode ray TV set, my parents had watched an episode that talked about how the internet would upend society as we know it. Personal computing would form the basis of many future economies, the show predicted, with every home connected via the world wide web. For the most part, the show would end up being correct.

My parents took a loan and picked up a beefy Windows 95 PC for us, with a whopping 700MB HDD, complete with 8MB of high-speed RAM. We even got on board with British Telecom’s OpenReach early internet roll-out, complete with a noisy 28 kb/s modem. The whole world was right there at my fingertips, in all of its classic Web 1.0 glory. I recall being mocked for asking kids at school if they had an email address.

The classic Macromedia Flash logo.

I didn’t fully understand the power of the tools I had in front of me, and sadly, neither did the UK education system. British IT lessons back then revolved around Microsoft Word and MS Paint, teaching kids how to copy and paste text, or doodle ducks using a mouse cursor. Back then, if you wanted to know more about the potential a PC unlocks, you’d have to look elsewhere.

Back then, there was very little out there designed to educate kids specifically on coding, design, and so on. Luckily, there was one program that had the ability to teach kids the basics of programming, alongside graphic design, web development, and even the earliest forms of social media in one sublime package. That package was Flash, back then owned by Macromedia, later bought out by Adobe. Everything I learned through Flash is probably what led me here to Windows Central today, writing this for all you lovely people.

This is my tribute to Flash, and how the humble format changed my life forever.

Discovering Web 1.0 as a kid

LissaExplains.com is one place I learned basic HTML, with the original intent of editing my Neopets.com profile.

The web was a simpler place back in the late 90s. There wasn’t really any social media. There was no YouTube, no Netflix, no Disney+. There was a handful of websites that leveraged Flash to create content for kids, though.

One such website was Neopets.com, which still exists today. Back then, Neopets had a bunch of Flash-based games and services for kids. It was effectively like a Pokemon MMO for the web, with collectible magical pets, battling, trading systems, messaging, and other mini-games. The service was popular at my school among kids who’d rather slack off in IT lessons than learn, again, how to copy and paste.

I noticed that some kids’ profiles on the site had unique styling that broke the website’s layout, to give their small slice of the web a unique look. Neopets had a guide on how to use HTML to create unique profile formatting, and I was stunned to discover that its guide is still live to this day, largely unchanged. LissaExplains.com is another great resource I used to learn basic CSS concepts for framing websites.

It wasn’t long after learning how to hack my Neopets profile that I realized I could apply the things I’d learned to make my own website, but what content would I have? How would I make the graphics?

Back then, entire websites were set up using Flash alone. These were mostly static brand pages that didn’t need frequent content updates or strict SEO policies, but for a beginner, learning how to string “pages” together with clickable buttons was incredibly easy to do in Flash.

When not on Neopets, I frequented websites like Newgrounds.com, which remains the world’s largest repository of Flash-based games and cartoons. Already in love with video games and inspired by Newgrounds and websites like Stickdeath.com (RIP), I set about creating my very own Flash “game,” where you’d choose how to kill a stickman in various grisly ways.

Running a Flash-based website

My first cartoon “Stick Death Showcase,” re-uploaded to YouTube, with 400K views.

Content portals based around Flash Player like Newgrounds and Stickdeath.com spawned an entire subculture of stickman-based cartoons, lovingly nicknamed stickdeath. Stickmen were simply easier to animate, particularly for those who didn’t have expensive drawing tablets. While there were pretty great guides on HTML, I don’t recall using any online help for learning to animate. It was simply a case of viewing cartoons frame-by-frame in a local Flash player, using the arrow keys to slowly scrub through the video, to learn how to animate on a trial-and-error basis.

The community around stickdeath and Newgrounds would spawn careers for all sorts of people.

The community around stickdeath and Newgrounds would spawn careers for all sorts of people. Rob DenBleyker and Dave McElfatrick were both stickdeath animators before creating the blockbuster webcomic and animated series Cyanide and Happiness, over at Explosm.net. Before becoming one of YouTube’s biggest creative teams, Smosh was a Flash cartoon community. Others like Felix Massie, legendary in the community for icantcolourin, achieved professional success in the animation industry. The biggest and best, Newgrounds.com, exists to this day, with archives bursting with decades of cartoons from the early 00s and beyond. Its creator Tom Fulp would later make the smash hit indie Xbox game Castle Crashers.

Alas, as you might’ve guessed, I didn’t make it as an animator. Some of my earliest cartoons like the Stick Death Showcase, Assorted Mishaps, and Excuse2Animate found their way onto YouTube, reuploaded by nostalgic stick death fans (cheers, by the way). But as adulthood set in, attention spans waned. Some of those cartoons took literally months of painstaking doodling to create, all using a trackball mouse. I found that my blog posts on my cartoon site often got more hits than my animations while taking a fragment of the time and effort to make.

Flash is dead, long live Flash

The last Flash cartoon I ever made, all the way back in 2007.

I didn’t become a famous animator, but the skills I learned while mastering Flash have provided for me a skillset that has helped me find work that my crumbling inner-city school simply couldn’t. I was a rough environment that wasn’t fit for purpose. It was featured in BBC News for its rat infestation, asbestos problem, and overflowing classes, with upwards of 45 students per teacher. It has since been rebuilt, but that doesn’t exactly help me or the class of ’05.

Flash was the perfect tool for me, and many others who couldn’t gel with mainstream education.

School might have failed me, but the worldwide web didn’t. Before joining Windows Central I worked as a general IT guy for a small group of charities, building websites and making graphics, using skills self-taught thanks to those early years inspired by Flash. Cartoons are a historically engaging medium for youngsters, and all of the ActionScript practices, graphic design skills, and web building knowledge required just came along naturally. Flash was the perfect tool for me, and many others who couldn’t gel with mainstream education.

It might seem strange to be nostalgic for a web video type, but I feel like I owe so much of my career to that format. It would’ve felt stranger still to simply ignore its passing. Adobe Flash Player will officially die on December 31st, 2020, as Adobe ends the distribution of the format and its security updates.

The Adobe Flash creation tools already became Adobe Animate and focuses on modern formats and video, with the same rich animation tools of its predecessors. Web-based cartoons will live on in much more secure and efficient formats fit for the modern web. Either way, I for one won’t forget the legacy of contributions Flash Player gave to the wider web, nor myself personally. Cheers Flash.

An ode to Adobe Flash, and how it saved my future

STALKER 2 in-engine footage shown off in new teaser

The Zone has never looked better.

What you need to know

GSC Game World, the developers behind STALKER 2, have released brand new in-engine footage of the game.
According to the developers, the footage is indicative of how the game will feel to play and experience.
STALKER 2 is expected to release at some point in 2021 on Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, and Windows 10 PCs.

GSC Game World, the development studio behind STALKER 2, has recently released new in-engine footage of the game via IGN. You can watch the teaser below:

In the trailer, three different scenes can be observed: a foggy forested area within the game’s iconic variant of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, a dark concrete structure illuminated by a campfire, and the interior of a building bathed in crimson red light (this looks similar to the supernatural “emission storms” from the original STALKER games). Additionally, the “PDA 2.0,” which players will likely use to navigate the Zone and track quests, can be seen at the end of the trailer.

According to a statement from the developers in the video description, this teaser represents “how the game actually feels: fast-paced change of scenery, ominous landscapes and the ever-present feeling of an inevitable danger accompanied by a barely-distinguishable guitar soundtrack.” The description also reveals that the protagonist of the game is named Skif.

What do you think of the footage? Personally, I think it looks awesome, and I can’t wait to get my hands on STALKER 2. It’s expected to release on Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, and Windows 10 PCs at some point in 2021. It will also be available through Xbox Game Pass.

Welcome to The Zone

STALKER Bundle

$40 at GMG (Steam)

Three games in one

This awesome bundle contains the three first STALKER games and will be a perfect primer for STALKER 2.

Play more games

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

It’ll last you a couple of months

Xbox Game Pass gives you access to over 200 games for one monthly fee. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate also adds Xbox Live Gold to the package so you can play online with your friends.

$1 at Microsoft Store
$45 at Amazon
$45 at Newegg

STALKER 2 in-engine footage shown off in new teaser

Become a Microsoft Office power user with 74 hours of training for just $40

Source: StackCommerce
If you work behind a desk, chances are that Microsoft apps will be part of your workflow. The Premium Microsoft Office & Data Apps Certification Bundle helps you master the software, with 74 hours of in-depth training. You can get it now for just $39.99 — that is 97% off the full price.
From crunching the numbers in finance to collaborating with the marketing team, there are many ways to use Microsoft products. For this reason, recruiters look for people with a solid knowledge of the most popular apps.
This bundle helps you increase your knowledge, with 18 separate courses on the Microsoft suite. Through easy-to-follow tutorials, the training takes you from beginner to expert.
Along the way, you learn how to work Excel, including VBA, Macros, Power Query, and Pivot Tables. You also learn how to handle SharePoint, Access, Project, Outlook, Teams, PowerPoint, Visio, Word, and even OneNote.
The training comes from Earn and Excel, a collective of highly experienced professionals who have 4.4 stars on Udemy.
The full line-up is worth $1,702 in total, but you can get the bundle today for only $39.99.

 

The Premium Microsoft Office & Data Apps Certification Bundle – $39.99See Deal

 
Prices subject to change 

Become a Microsoft Office power user with 74 hours of training for just

Microsoft Rewards is the best Xbox feature you're probably ignoring

As you buy and play games, make sure you’re maximizing Microsoft Rewards, you’ll be glad you did.

Did you know that Microsoft Rewards on the Xbox? Did you also know that it’s one of the best places to earn those reward points by doing very little?

File this under one of those “I thought everyone knew” things, but having discussed it with a friend over the holidays who was completely oblivious to the program, perhaps it’s not all that well known.

So here’s the deal. If you’re not using it, then you should start, immediately. Especially if you have an Xbox Series S. But whether you’re new or an old hand, you might find this helpful in maximizing your use of the program.

Get rewarded for buying and playing games

The first thing you should do is make sure you have the dedicated Microsoft Rewards Xbox app installed on your console. It’s your gateway to a whole bunch of Xbox-specific chances to increase your points, in many cases without doing much at all.

There are some regular features, like Game Pass Quests, which you can earn small rewards from daily and weekly, with bonuses for hitting monthly goals. We’re not talking anything tough either, literally just playing a Game Pass game every day or unlocking achievements is all it takes. If you’re playing these games anyway, why not monetize them? Over time, lots of small amounts soon add up.

Then there are the bigger bonuses. The recent holiday sale, for example, offered a 5,000 point bonus on meeting a minimum spend (£35 where I am) on almost all games in the promotion. If you’re buying new games from the Microsoft Store in a sale — and this is where it makes even more sense for Xbox Series S owners — anyway, 5,000 points is a pretty big chunk.

It’s almost enough on it’s own to get five bucks/pounds added to your account to put towards another game. Using Microsoft Rewards points I earned with very little effort I took £15 off the price of Cyberpunk 2077. Who doesn’t like free money?

The key is to keep checking the app on your Xbox and activate relevant punch cards. At the time of writing this there are sizeable bonuses for people who play Apex Legends, Call of Duty and Rainbow Six Siege, as well as for purchasing media.

Sure, a lot of the higher tier rewards are linked to buying stuff, but if you’re buying it anyway, what’s the harm? Again…it’s all free money.

Auto-redeem for the best rates

When it comes to getting something for your (hard) earned points, there’s a lot to choose from. You can enter contests, get subscriptions to Gold or Game Pass Ultimate, donate some to charitable causes or you can cash them in for Xbox gift cards to credit onto your account.

And if you set up an auto-redeem, which has its own tab in the Microsoft Rewards app, you’ll get a better redemption rate and make your points go a little further each time.

For example, I currently get a £5 credit for 5,500 points on auto-redeem, compared to 5,850 without. It’s not much, but I’d rather save those points over time than not.

Combine it with the desktop

How much you earn and how much you can redeem will depend on how active you are in the program. It also covers desktop use, of course, so if you’re searching with Bing, especially in Microsoft Edge, you’ll earn points every day.

You’ll also be able to earn on purchases from the Microsoft Store, be that apps and games (including when you buy Xbox games), digital video content or even items like a new Surface. There are plenty of opportunities to earn rewards points and use them towards more discounts on new games.

There are exemptions, for example, on Xbox you won’t earn points on microtransactions, but there’s plenty of information readily available on what is eligible. And the web portal is always worth visiting for a few extra opportunities to top up on points.

If you’re not already using the program though, definitely get the app installed or visit the website, get signed up and get earning. You’d be silly not to.

Xbox Series X/S

Xbox Series X: Everything we know
Best games coming to Xbox Series X/S
List of Xbox Series X specs
What is the Xbox Series X release date?
How much does Xbox Series X cost?
Why you can’t preorder Xbox Series X yet
Best Xbox Series X Headsets

Microsoft Rewards is the best Xbox feature you're probably ignoring

What we want to see from Surface in 2021

2021 could be a big year for Surface. Here’s what we think is coming and what we’d like to see too.

Microsoft’s range of Surface devices has grown exponentially over the years. What started as a simple concept for a 2-in-1 convertible PC has morphed into Surface Studio, Surface Laptop (two sizes), Surface Go, Surface Laptop Go, Surface Book (two sizes), Surface Pro X, Surface Duo, various Surface Pro devices, and multiple Surface-branded accessories like Earbuds and Headphones.

So, what’s going to happen in 2021? Much of it is a mystery as Microsoft is, thankfully, one of the rare companies that can genuinely surprise everyone during product announcements. But there are a few things we know, a couple of things we can infer, and some more we want to see but are not sure.

Without further ado, here’s what we want to see from Surface in 2021.

Jump to:

Surface Pro
Surface Laptop 4
Surface Go 3
Surface Laptop Go 2
Surface Neo
Surface Monitor
Surface Cam
Surface Duo 2
Surface Book 4
Surface Pro X 2
Surface Studio 3
Surface Laptop Pro
Surface headphones
Surface tech
What did we miss?

Surface Pro ‘next’: Highly likely

Up first on the agenda for 2021, we’re expecting to see Microsoft announce and start shipping a new Surface Pro with Intel 11th-gen processors, up to 32GB RAM, and a new LTE option for those who need it. We understand that externally, the new Surface Pro will be identical to the Surface Pro 7, which means there will not be thinner bezels or additional ports to be found.

We expect the new Surface Pro to start shipping to customers in mid-January in a handful of markets before rolling out to a broader set of markets in late January or early February.

Surface Laptop 4: Highly likely

We’re also expecting to see a new Surface Laptop in 2021, once again maintaining the same external design and port selection as the previous generation Surface Laptop 3. Internally, we hear that the new Surface Laptop will feature Intel 11th-generation chips or newer Microsoft Edition AMD Ryzen chips, up to 32GB RAM, and a new Ice Blue color replacing Cobalt Blue on the Surface Laptop 3.

The most notable change about the new Surface Laptop will be that the AMD Ryzen chips will be available in the 13.5-inch variant for the first time. In the last generation, the AMD chips were exclusive to the 15-inch model. We hear Surface Laptop will begin shipping sometime in April.

Surface Go 3: Unknown

Microsoft updated the Surface Go earlier in 2020 with a more powerful processor and thinner bezels, so it’s unlikely that we’re going to get a refresh so soon in 2021. Microsoft was planning to release a black version of the Surface Go 2 in early 2021, but we hear that SKU has been canceled and now won’t ship.

Many have speculated that Microsoft will release an updated Surface Go in the spring with Windows 10X. While that does make sense on paper, we’ve not heard from any sources that this will be the case. We’ve been told that the Windows 10X launch in the spring will be a low-key event and likely won’t have any first-party hardware from Microsoft available straight away.

Surface Laptop Go 2: Likely

Microsoft just introduced Surface Laptop Go in late 2020. It’s uncertain how well it is selling, but we certainly liked it.

We could see Microsoft refreshing Surface Laptop Go 2 for late 2021 with a processor upgrade and perhaps some improvement to the screen. Also, we wouldn’t complain if Microsoft adds some backlit keys this time.

Surface Neo: Delayed

Microsoft notoriously delayed the Surface Neo from 2020 to sometime in the future. We still don’t know when precisely the Surface Neo will ship, but unfortunately, we’re not expecting it in 2021. The last rumors on the subject said Windows 10X wouldn’t be ready for dual-screen PCs until sometime in 2022, which means Surface Neo can’t launch until then.

There is a very slim chance that that work could be completed ahead of schedule. If so, perhaps we’ll see it at the end of 2021, but we’re not holding our breath. The question now is, will the hardware be updated at all? If we had to put money on it, we’d say no. The exterior design will be the same, but perhaps we’ll see a newer processor inside.

Surface Monitor: Maybe

A Surface display monitor has been around the rumor mill more times than we can count. The last reports suggested it could show up in 2020, but with the pandemic and current economic climate, that plan was likely postponed. Hopefully, we’ll see it in 2021, but we have no concrete information that this will be the case.

We can say that it won’t be showing up in the first half of 2021. If it does show up next year, it’ll likely be at a fall event rather than a spring event.

Surface Cam: Unknown

Surface Hub 2’s 4K webcam.

One of Windows 10’s best features is Windows Hello for biometric authentication. So, weirdly, Microsoft doesn’t make a Windows Hello-enabled webcam for PCs that don’t have it built-in.

We don’t know if this is something in the works, but we’d love to see a Surface Camera with bio authentication tech built-in in 2021. Microsoft has a long history with its well-received LifeCam, but it’s been ages since the brand released anything. Can we get something to challenge Logitech’s dominance?

Surface Duo 2: Planned

It goes by the codename ‘Zeta’ and, from our sources, has been in development since at least summer 2020. We’re talking about Surface Duo 2, and yes, Microsoft would like to see it come out in late 2021.

Whereas Surface Duo v1 was intended initially as a pocketable Surface than ran a version of Windows, it morphed in its final stages into an Android phone. That explains why it is missing “phone things” like NFC, Qi Wireless, runs an older CPU, has no 5G, or a good camera. It was never intended to be an Android phone.

So, what happens when the Surface team can build the hardware knowing its new role? We are expecting many of version one’s shortcomings fixed in v2. Let’s see what happens.

Surface Book 4: Unlikely

Surface Book 3 arrived in early 2020, and Microsoft hasn’t ever updated its flagship laptop on a yearly cadence, unlike Surface Pro, Surface Pro X, and Surface Laptop. That means a 2021 version – at least a completely new model – seems unlikely.

We sure wouldn’t mind seeing Microsoft upgrade the processor to Intel’s 11th Gen, which delivers around a 30 percent boost in performance. They could do that and still call it Surface Book 3.

Longer-term, we’d still like to see Surface Book’s design refreshed, including a larger trackpad. But that is something that may have to come in 2022.

Surface Pro X 2: Maybe/Likely

Microsoft refreshed its ARM-based Surface Pro X in late 2020. It was a promising sign as a new (and preferred) platinum colorway was offered, various new colors for the keyboards, and the processor had a mild upgrade. Microsoft is also testing proper 64-bit emulation for x86 apps to make Surface Pro X even more valuable for mobile users.

However, the 2020 update was minor, which is why it’s not called Surface Pro X 2.

What do Microsoft and Qualcomm have in the pipeline for a new CPU? We don’t know yet, but Surface Pro X 2 needs a new processor to give it some pop. And the next version should have 5G on board, too, to make it useful heading into 2022.

It would seem odd to not see Surface Pro X refreshed in late 2021, so we’re filing this under maybe, but also likely.

Surface Studio 3: Unknown/Possible

Surface Studio 2 is now over two years old. Its Intel 8th Gen processor was showing its age the day it was released.

What about Surface Studio 3? We have heard there are plans for one, but the COVID pandemic has put its release on a backburner. After all, releasing the most expensive consumer Surface when people are losing their jobs and the economy is shaky is probably not a great idea.

Heading into 2021, however, things should pick up the second half of the year. That makes a Surface Studio 3 much more likely. Will it be a more modular system, taking hints from Surface Hub 2, or just a hardware upgrade?

We’ll take either option. We just want to see Thunderbolt 4, a more powerful processor, and some better Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Surface Laptop Pro: Unknown

There is no such thing as Surface Laptop Pro, but if we had to pick one device that could be next, this would be it.

Microsoft’s problem is this: Surface Laptop, especially the 15-inch model, is just a swanky Ultrabook (meaning no discrete GPU). Surface Book 3, which does have a powerful GPU, is saddled with a weak processor due to the removable tablet design. That means both laptops are extremely far from being the most powerful available. This problem is only exacerbated by Apple’s impressive M1 processor, which is undoubtedly coming to its larger MacBook Pro lineup in 2021.

A Surface Laptop Pro would help address this concern. Take the existing Surface Laptop design, maybe bump it up to a 16-inch display, make it a bit thicker, and put in the latest Intel or AMD processor with an RTX 3xxx series GPU. And we are talking the “H” series of processors, not “U” like Surface Book and Surface Laptop. Add multiple ports, too, while we are at it.

In other words, Microsoft needs to make a powerful workstation, not just a fancy Ultrabook.

Surface headphones: Very likely

Microsoft has quite a few accessories, including keyboards and mice. We won’t address all those, but Surface Headphones and Surface Earbuds are likely to see refreshes.

Surface Headphones could use some better durability support. And with Sony, Bose, Razer, and now Apple competing in the high-end noise-canceling headphones, Microsoft has its work cut out to stand out from the crowd.

Surface Earbuds are a unique offering compared to other buds, but there are also many shortcomings. Smart features like auto-pause, updated Bluetooth, and a case that can wireless recharge are a few things that come to mind we’d like to see improved.

Surface: General tech

Razer Book 13 with an anti-reflective display.

Finally, there is a short list of things we would like to see the Surface brand begin to embrace. Some of these we have written about before, so let’s hope Microsoft is listening:

Anti-reflective displays: Not to be confused with matte anti-glare, this tech is the same that is used in eyeglasses. The coating reduces glare without sacrificing contrast and acuity. HP and Dell are embracing it as it means your eyes won’t get as strained. Worried about pen scratches? Put it behind the glass.
5G: Microsoft is also conservative on new features, so not launching Surface Duo or Surface Pro X with 5G is almost forgivable. But for devices coming out in late 2021? Those better have 5G, or we’re going to be upset.
Thunderbolt 4: Microsoft has been shy to embrace Thunderbolt in any of its devices. That must end with Thunderbolt 4 going mainstream. While some arguments about compatibility held water in 2017-2019, it will be flat out ridiculous if you’re running a Surface in late 2021/early 2022 with only USB 3.2.
HDR: Here’s an obvious fact: people use their Surface devices for work and pleasure. That means people watch movies on their Surface PCs when traveling, on the couch, or in a hotel room. HDR is no gimmick as it gives your display some extra punch. Lenovo embraces Dolby Vision, Dell has its Cinema Color, and HP also has optimizations. Why not Surface?
Surface Pen?: It’s been years since Surface Pen has received any technological milestones. We’re not sure what the status is on latency, tilt, and accuracy, but indeed, we are overdue for something to make the Surface Pen better than Samsung’s S Pen or Apple’s Pencil. Right?
More AI: Intel has been pushing AI for its 11th Gen platform. We see some real results with HP laptops that can auto-adjust color profiles and CPU load based on the app you are using. Companies are now using Time-of-Flight (TOF) sensors to detect your presence without using the camera to auto-lock your PC. Microphones can now use AI to reduce background noise. Will we see any of this magic Surface in Surface?

What did we miss?

For 2021, Microsoft has a lot on its plate for Surface. Some of what we have written here is obvious – Surface Laptop 4 – whereas on other devices, the plans are not so clear like Surface Go 3. We know there will be a Surface Go 3; we’re just not sure when.

We’d also love to see a Surface wearable of some kind. Microsoft Band had a lot of great ideas and tech, after all. But we also don’t have any insight to suggest something like that is in the works. But who knows?

What else would you like to see for either new Surface devices or features that are currently missing that you think are needed? Let us know.

And if you’re curious about the status of Windows 10, check our article 2021 is shaping up to be a big year for Windows 10, including the latest on Windows 10X.

What we want to see from Surface in 2021

How to let your kids play their Xbox games with friends on other platforms

If your kids want to cross-play with friends outside of Xbox Live, you’ll need to enable it first.

If you have a family group set up with your Microsoft Account and for Xbox, then you’ll already know about some of the great features for controlling what your kids have access to. But one thing they may want to use is actually hidden behind a setting you might not know exists.

Crossplay.

This is specifically referring to cross-network play, that is, playing with friends outside the Xbox Live walls. When it comes to titles like Minecraft and Minecraft Dungeons, it’s perfectly possible for your kids to play with their friends on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation, but to do so, you’ll have to give them the magic permission first.

Here’s how to do it.

How to set up crossplay in the Xbox Family Settings app

Perfectly easy to play Minecraft Dungeons between Xbox and Nintendo Switch when you know how.

If you have a family group set up for anything relating to your Microsoft account, there are a couple of mobile apps you should definitely have. For managing Xbox specific settings, the Xbox Family Settings app is the one to have and the one we’re using here.

Grab it for either iPhone or Android and get logged in with your Microsoft Account before following these steps.

Tap on the relevant child profile.

Next, tap the settings icon in the bottom right corner.
Scroll down and tap on cross-network play.

Set the toggle switch to allow.

This will now enable crossplay outside Xbox Live, but it won’t enable communication with those platforms.

How to set up crossplay on the web

If you’d rather set this up on the web, it’s very straightforward also. You can either login directly, or you can go via the new Xbox app for Windows 10.

If using the Xbox app, first open settings.
Click manage privacy settings.

If going through the web, go to account.xbox.com/en-us/settings and login.
Click on your child’s profile.
Click Xbox One/Windows 10 Online Safety
Ensure the first box, relating to crossplay, is set to allow.

This will now enable crossplay outside Xbox Live, but it won’t enable communication with those platforms.

Xbox Series X/S

Xbox Series X: Everything we know
Best games coming to Xbox Series X/S
List of Xbox Series X specs
What is the Xbox Series X release date?
How much does Xbox Series X cost?
Why you can’t preorder Xbox Series X yet
Best Xbox Series X Headsets

How to let your kids play their Xbox games with friends on other platforms